Monday, April 8, 2013

A to Z Challenge: Getting to Know You

Welcome back, new kids and veteran novelists alike. It's lovely to see you all here. Today, I have something very important to share - and I think the vets will agree with me. 

You see... when you start writing a novel, you haven't a clue about how to write. Or you have a clue. But you know what they say. A little bit of knowledge might just be enough to kill you. 

So what's a new kid to do? You research the craft, of course. That's probably why you're even here, reading this blog. You want to learn from others. 

And let me say one thing. The blogging community is a great place to learn. No one here is really here to make money on their writing wisdoms. (Their books, on the other hand... hint hint. Nudge nudge.) 

But the people in this community is so generous with information. This, my dear friends, is a blessing and a curse at the same time. 

If you're like me and you have an excellent sense of who you are and what you're trying to achieve, it's a blessing. Because if you search long enough, you'll find what you're looking for.

You guys who are a bit less specific don't have it so lucky, though. It's sort of like walking into a writing library and asking for a writing book. 

The librarian will just keep stacking books until you're buried. 

And I've seen it again and again in blogs and comments. 

"I enjoyed writing up to this point. But there are so many conflicting rules to it that I don't know how I'm supposed to write right." 

Sound like you? Yeah... thought so. 

You there... the tiny little thing in the corner who gave up on writing because you read too much advice and don't know how to write any more. This message is for you.

First, I have a list of questions that you need to answer me. Give me all the right answers, please. Do you...

  • Write in the morning or at lunch? 
  • Squeeze in bits of writing every chance you get? Or do you block off hours of writing uh... let me venture to say... joy? 
  • Require a road map in your writing or do you make it up as you go along? 
  • Write every day or when inspiration strikes? 
  • Pen or keypad? 
  • If pen. Blue pen or black? 
  • If keypad... Comic Sans or Times New Roman? 
  • Muse or no muse? 
  • Character driven or plot driven? 
Yes kids, the veterans are cat-calling for a reasons. These are trick questions.

The answers are all correct. So yeah. Your approach to writing is highly personal. And you have absolute carte blanche about how you write. 

But the point is that you have to find what works for you. And only you. 

You're not J.K. Rowling. You're not J.R.R. Tolkien. You're not Danielle Steele. You're not going to write like them. Because odds are, your personalities differ. 

You are the person who knows what works for you. So stick with what you know works. Even if, in my opinion, you're the insane person who plots all the way to the end in *shudder* blue ball point pen. 

I'm the insane person known for writing entire drafts in black fountain pen ink. See?! Look at some of the vets shivering. Thankfully, they're too nice to call me nuts. 

But you know why it's okay? Because the only way to write a book is the way you write to get the project finished. 

Nothing else. 

The point? Once you know your method, you can find what's niggling. And then you go researching to find a solution to that niggle. Anything else, you're welcome to disregard.  

Even when it's my excellent advice. 

So, vets... Why don't you do me a favor and answer me the questions listed above? New kids, do the same. It'll help you a great deal, I think, asserting yourself and your method. 


  1. We have to find our own personal style.
    I'll answer a couple questions. I write in the evening and always with a detailed outline. As for font, either Arial or Century works.

  2. A road that! I used to sit and just write. Now I totally design a road map. :)

    1. That's funny! I'm the polar opposite. Started out as a plotter. Doorways made me give it up.

  3. Everything comes down to gut instinct in the end. There's nothing wrong with taking different bits of advice, using, adapting or rejecting it as you see fit. Just do what feels right.

    1. Definitely. My style does adapt according to what I'm trying to achieve at the time. But I'll never try to change everything about my method just because someone said it's the only way to write.

  4. I write best when it's the middle of the night. No idea why, it just comes to me better at that time. Sigh. A lot of lat nights for me.

    Happy A through Z blogging!

    1. That happens to me too. And now I'm starting to notice flourishes of creativity either just as I wake up or when I'm exhausted.

      Not that the latter is something I plan to encourage. I settle for mediocrity rather then insomnia. ;-)

  5. You just keep writing, learn the craft, read the genre you like to write, and sooner or later it will all click for you. I've been writing for nearly 11 years. Suddenly, about 3 years ago, it really clicked for me.

    I also believe not to pressure yourself with daily word counts - just make your words COUNT. The word count will naturally rise.

    Great post, Misha!

    1. I agree with you about focusing on quality. Not to say that I'm assuming that first drafts have to be perfect. But because I draft by hand, I prefer not to waffle about trying to fill up pages.

  6. I think a new writer should start with a book and not On Writing. I'd recommend GMC or Writing the Breakthrough Novel. Learn the basics of plot before you start writing. (Even if you're a pantser). Knowing where the plot points should be will save you drafts and maybe even unsalavagable projects. Don't ask me how I know.

    1. I get what you're saying. Just knowing how a story structure works is really useful.

  7. I'm all over that map! I write when and where I can. I write each book as it comes: notes, inspirational bursts, thoughtful planning. Morning is my best time, but anytime is okay with me.

    1. I'm the same. Not even worried about genre much until I start noticing that the story leans in a genre-like direction. They always do.

  8. Great post. Writing is such an individual, solitary experience, yet we share so much of who we are to those willing to read. Most would agree, I think, that for a true writer, it's compulsion, not cash-incentive, that drives them to put the pen to paper. It's an interesting exericse to try to copy someone's style. I find my own voice jumping in and changing things.

    1. Yeah I agree. I don't think one could be a writer if making money is the end-goal.

  9. Once again Misha, you give fantastic advice for new and more advanced writers. We all need to be reminded from time to time to write what WE know and to do so in a style that is OURS....

  10. If I hadn’t become involved in the writing groups on line I prob would never have written anything
    I write whenever I have time or/and inspiration
    sometimes write a little not often write in huge chuncks
    I’m a panster all the way
    if I don’t write something every day I get sick
    write on computer but take notes anytime
    character driven

    1. I'm the same. Sometimes it's hard for me to spend five minutes writing. Other times, I churn out over 5k handwritten in a day.

      Depends on how the muse strikes me, I guess. ;-)

  11. Loved your post. It's such a good reminder. I write by the seat of my pants much of the time, and then when a scene gets ticklish because of research I need or what I need to happen later, then I do a bit of plotting, or at least setting down steps along the way and scribbling down information I need. Much of the time I write in my head for a couple of days before I write a word on my computer, though I might jot a point down to keep in mind. Not like the pros advise, I know. Sigh.

    I came to your blog via Julie Luek's. I'll be back. I'm following you now.

    1. Sounds like an interesting and productive way to keep track. :-)

      Thanks for following!

  12. When I finally get going, I start in the morning and keep going all day. It's the "getting going" that's tough for me. Once I'm into it, I'm unstoppable.

    I used to work without a roadmap; now I need one. I still find the process of writing to be the best way to prompt ideas, however.

    I forget what the other questions are...

    Keypad. Character and plot -- inseparable for me.

  13. I think the reason I read so many other people's advice on the 'rules' is so that I have some perspective. If I didn't know that others use strict outlines, have strict writing schedules, and many other things then I wouldn't have a clue why some didn't like my work. Now, due to being aware of so many different types of writing styles out there, when someone makes a snarky criticism of my work or writing habits - I get where they're coming from. I can take it with a grain of salt and figure they just aren't me, they have different ideas on how, when and what to write.

  14. It never hurts to try something new, but if it's not broke, don't fix it.

  15. My favorite font is marker felt! (In other words, I cannot think of anything intelligent to say, but I did enjoy my visit here today)

  16. I'm still searching for my 'method' and am hoping to find day :)

    Great post!

  17. I love this advice. I ended up in that place where I was just overwhelmed with the rules...and then I read a certain best selling book that was so atrocious I started to live by the mantra "if that dreck can get published...then there is no 'wrong' way".


  18. Road map (definitely), keyboard (usually) and character driven (mostly).

  19. Yes, there is no 'one right way' to write a novel...or short story...or anything.

    The key, I think, is to remember that as a writer you're telling a story. What's the best way to tell the story to the reader...after all, those readers are the audience, and the reason for telling/writing the story.

  20. Hey Misha,

    I write at night, but squeeze in a bit here and there when I can.
    I require a road map. Detailed when I am under pressure, but otherwise i can be a quick outline.
    Key Pad
    But, when I do in, green.
    Write in Georgia and then change it Times New Roman when I share it with someone.
    I am still trying to define this whole muse concept.
    I am completely character driven.
    Hope this helps.

  21. I like writing between lunch and dinner. I need blocks of time, and a plan. I try to write every day, but sometimes don't have time. First draft must be black-ink pen. I think muse is a myth as far as day-to-day writing goes, it's only necessary for big-picture answers. And I honestly can't say whether it's plot or character driven. It changes per book.

    Thanks for the post. Good luck with the A-Z challenge!

  22. I love this post!
    As for me, I'm a write every day by the seat of my pants in Times New Roman kinda-of-writer. At least for now. I've noticed that over the years, some of my writing preferences and habits change.

  23. Night writer, here, a pantser with a purpose and in love with his muse. But what good is a great character without plot?

    It was a piece of cake, Misha, wasn't it? Getting us writers to expose our deepest darkest selves like this. :)

  24. Hi Misha,

    I shall just allude to one of the questions you posed. I write whenever I have the urge. No set times and no rules I adhere to. I do find that music in the background helps the ambience of my writing. Okay, I do scribble down the occasional note.


  25. I've deleted both Comic Sans and Times New Roman from my computer, though for some reason, I'm unable to completely root out that ugly, eye-bleeding TNR. Though I'm using other fonts for papers this semester, for a change of pace, when I'm writing my own books, it has to be Palatino or the world isn't right.

  26. This really is excellent advice! Anyone would be crazy to disregard it. ;) As for the questions, I am keypad only and actually can't even write with a pen anymore. I just end up staring at the page and scribbling doodles. I love to use Arial font.

  27. Great post and soooooo true.

    Everywhere we go there is conflicting advice.

    Just write.


  28. I don't think there's ever a legitimate cause for using Comic Sans. Just sayin'. ;-)
    Some Dark Romantic

  29. Finding what works for you is important. Copying others won't help in the end.

  30. I write when I've run out of excuses not to, or when I open Word instead of Facebook - that's usually my clue that I'm ready to start.

    When I was doing NaNo last year I used a different font everyday, just to keep it fresh - some of them were pretty indecipherable but it was the amount that counted. Normally I use Times New Roman - I'm so traditional.

  31. What is funny is I can change my answer to each of the questions based on which project I'm working on. I try to write while kids are at school, so usually noon to two every day. Also, I try to write seven to eight in the evening.


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